The theme for this week’s episode of Sound Effect is “Found in Translation” — stories of making ourselves understood, for better or for worse. First, we meet a Kenyan woman who was pleased to meet a white woman familiar with her home country and tribe — until she learned why. Then, we visit a landmark that’s become a flashpoint between a mostly white city government and a changing community. Host Gabriel Spitzer takes us back to a remote village in Alaska where he experienced an unlikely racial clash. A White Center teenager learns how to communicate with his immigrant parents. A scientist looks to an octopus to understand how aliens might think. And we explore what a transplant from South Africa learns about her home after protesting in Seattle.
Gladys Wangeci Gitau-Damaskos was an undergraduate at Whitman College in Walla Walla. One day a white woman approached her on the street and asked if she was from Kenya — she even knew Gladys’ family’s tribe and dialect. It felt good to have her heritage honored and not just be seen as “other” or a generic African. But when she found out how the white woman got to be so knowledgeable, those good feelings evaporated.
Listen to the full audio above to learn more.
SEEKING DIVERSE LEADERSHIP
One of the places in our region where different languages and cultures mix is SeaTac. Not the airport, the town. The census shows more than 70 languages are spoken there, by immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia and Mexico — all over.
And yet the local city council is still dominated by white men and women. A new slate of city council candidates says the city’s leadership needs to reflect that diversity.
One place in SeaTac that’s become a flashpoint for this argument is the Bakaro Mall, also known as SeaTac Center. Producer Jennifer Wing takes us there.
REMOTE RACIAL CLASH
While Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer was working in Shishmaref, Alaska, a man arrived who looked wildly out of context. The village was a place of ice and tundra, of weathered brown skin and tan Carhartts. But this guy showed up in neon-colored rain gear with hippie jewelry and zero explanation of why he was there.
And he couldn’t really tell us — he only spoke Japanese.
Gabriel shares his essay about this mysterious traveler, and the racial clash that followed in a double-wide trailer.
PARENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND
Both Tristan Agosa's parents are from the Philippines. His mom doesn’t speak English — she speaks Tagalog, he does not. His dad does speak English, although that hasn’t exactly translated into a better relationship. They’re about as different as you can be: culturally, generationally and emotionally.
Like a lot of kids raised in immigrant households, Tristan plays the role of the translator. It’s not an easy job. The stress led to some serious mental health struggles, and it was only when Tristan was at his lowest that he figured out something that made it all seem more manageable. More on this story from contributor Max Wasserman.
LEARNING FROM OCTOPUSES
Dominic Sivitilli is a graduate student at the University of Washington. What drew him there was his fascination with biodiversity — the whole wide sweep of life on earth, and especially, how different life forms think, what he calls cognitive complexity.
“My two main interests that came out of that was the evolution of the mind, and then life itself," Dominic said. "So the origin of life itself.”
Dominic and Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer met up at a conference on astrobiology, meaning the study of life beyond earth. In this story, hear how Dominic draws parallels between how he looked to this octopus to understand how aliens might think.
PROTESTING HERE AND THERE
The third Seattle Women’s March took place Jan. 19 earlier this year. Among the protesters — who marched down East Pine Street wearing pink hats and holding signs with slogans like “the future is female” — was Neroli Price.
This was Neroli’s first time protesting in Seattle since moving to the city in 2018. Everything about the experience felt new, except for the very act of marching itself. That’s because Neroli grew up in “the protest capital of the world”: South Africa.
Neroli discovered that it took moving halfway around the world, to see her home in a new way. She shares her story.